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  Yahoo News 18 Mar 07
Two rescued Indonesian orangutans give birth

Two of the 48 orangutans that were returned to Indonesia in November after a protracted rescue operation in Thailand have given birth, a wildlife activist said Monday.

"Two of the orangutans have given birth, both to male babies," said Willie Smits of the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Reintroduction Center in Central Kalimantan.

Smits told AFP that one of the orangutans delivered her baby in January and the second on March 5 at the animal rehabilitation centre in Kalimantan on the Indonesian part of Borneo island.

He said the pregnancies were only discovered after they had been repatriated in November.

"The mothers and the baby are healthy," he said, adding that many of the other apes have been discovered to suffer from various diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis. "The tests were not done properly before they were allowed to leave Thailand," he said.

The primates had been smuggled into Thailand and were seized two years ago at a Bangkok zoo that was found to have acquired them illegally. An investigation was carried out to determine whether they were from Malaysia or Indonesia.

Their eventual return to Borneo was delayed by September's military coup in Thailand. An Indonesian air force plane flew the animals in November to the centre.

Orangutans, the only great ape to be found outside of Africa, are native to the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo. About 62,000 orangutans are estimated to live in Indonesia, 7,500 of them in Sumatra, Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban has said.

But experts said populations are fast declining due to deforestation and illegal animal trafficking. Widespread annual fires towards the end of the dry season, as farmers and plantation owners clear land for new crops, is also believed to claim the lives of hundreds of orangutans.

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